Dagnall hat-trick seals fantastic final day win over Barnet.
Chris Dagnall inspired Crewe Alexandra to a stylish 4-1 victory over Barnet on the final day of the season. Dagnall hit a treble to take his personal tally for the season to 17 goals and George Cooper hit a fourth to finish the campaign on double figures. Crewe finished 17th on 55 points.
Barnet’s goal was an absolute screamer from Curtis Weston just after the hour mark and it nearly made a contest of it, but Dagnall’s hat-trick goal sealed the points before he laid on the fourth for Cooper.
On-loan striker Jordan Bowery returned to the Crewe Alexandra starting line-up after he began on the substitutes’ bench away at Plymouth Argyle last weekend. Bowery returned to the starting line-up for the unfortunate Callum Ainley. The attack-minded youngster had started the previous three games.
Youngster Tom Lowery was also named on the substitutes’ bench again after overcoming his hernia problem, but the vastly experienced midfielder Danny Hollands just missed out after working exceeding hard to shake off his torn hamstring tendon.
Crewe started at an incredible tempo and really got on the front foot. George Cooper had an early effort saved by Josh Vickers after he had been found by Ryan Wintle. From the resultant corner, Vickers came and collected with confidence with Jordan Bowery waiting for any slip.
After five minutes, a quick throw-in from Dagnall sent Ollie Turton racing down the right hand side and his centre was headed into the side netting by Bowery.
Crewe were playing some delightful one touch and two touch football and Dagnall had another shot blocked before he opened the scoring in the 8th minute. Dagnall showed great strength to hold of the intentions of the Barnet captain Michael Nelson to latch on to a long ball and his shot seemed to squirm under Vickers to trickle over the line. It was a goalkeeping error and the soft goal should have been avoided but it was no more than Crewe deserved for the way we had started the final game.
Barnet continued to try and hit John Akinde as early as possible and the big striker had a shot blocked before the visitors began to have more of the ball. A good hit from midfielder Jack Taylor flew over the Crewe crossbar from distance and Zoumana Bakayogo did superbly to prevent Akinde from getting in behind.
From a set-piece corner, Nelson poked an effort goalwards but Garratt made a terrific save to deny him.
Despite that burst from Barnet, it was Crewe scoring the decisive second goal of the contest on 25 minutes. The play was shifted from the left to the right and Turton’s accurate pass into the path of Dagnall allowed the striker to pick his spot and he drilled a low shot past a static Vickers. It was a fantastic finish to take the striker to an impressive goal tally and the Barnet manager Rossi Eames soon made a tactical change with full-back David Tutonda replaced by Elliott Johnson.
Barnet defender Charlie Clough did have the ball in the net but the goal was ruled off for offside and the Crewe goalkeeper made a smart save to push away a well struck free-kick from winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce.
Cooper sent a free-kick over the top of the Barnet crossbar before Perry Ng protected a ball back to Garratt with Akinde trying to steal in behind again. Simeon Akinola also attempted an acrobatic effort but didn’t make a clean enough connection.
The first half ended with Akinde getting in behind for the first time but Garratt stood up well to narrow his angle and he made another smart save to keep Crewe 2-0 ahead. Just before the interval, the Railwaymen lost Callum Cooke due to injury and he was replaced by Callum Ainley. The on-loan Cooke received a fantastic ovation as he left the pitch after giving us some sterling service after arriving on loan from Middlesbrough.
Barnet made a change at the break with the lively Ephron Mason-Clark coming on and the Bees started the second half on top. An encouraging run from Campbell-Ryce ended in him shooting his shot high and wide before a chance opened up for Harry Taylor but he dragged his shot well wide of the mark.
The visitors continued to press looking to get back into the game and Garratt had to get his fingertips to a well struck effort from Weston before Crewe started to conjure up problems for the opposition once again. Wintle released Cooper and he whistled a shot just wide of the target.
Weston got Barnet back into the game with a wonderful strike on 64 minutes. He unleashed a superb shot with little back lift and it flew past Garratt to make it 2-1.
Crewe responded well though and after Ainley had a shot straight at Vickers, Crewe went 3-1 ahead with Dagnall completing his hat-trick. Bowery did fantastically well to run into the channel before he found Bakayogo. He played a neat one-two with Ainley and the full-back’s persistent play saw his low cross converted from close range by the razor sharp skipper.
With the 3-1 lead and the final game heading to a climax, a searching cross from Cooper nearly found Dagnall for a fourth goal but the full-back Johnson did well to cover and flick it away.
David Artell introduced young midfielder Ollie Finney for his debut and James Jones was given a standing ovation for his contribution during the season.
Bowery’s hard work deserved a goal. He dragged a shot wide of the target before Dagnall cleverly headed the ball through to Cooper and he tucked it with his final touch of the game. He was soon replaced by Charlie Kirk. Cooper ended the season with 10 goals.
Akinde was still a handful though and after he found Akinola, he shot wide of the mark as Barnet continued to try and find another to make it a bit more interesting.
Bowery had the last major chance in the dying minutes after being sent clear by Perry Ng. He screwed his shot just wide of the far post. A late chance saw Crewe open up the Barnet defence yet again but Kirk’s near post shot was pushed behind for a corner by Vickers.